Imagine: Art is Child's Play, BBC1
A Century of Fatherhood, BBC4

Yentob's heads up on the artist's inner child

It's always a touch bruising to the ego to realise that, though the specifics vary, our most significant childhood memories find uncanny parallels in those of the next person.

Unless the next person is the artist Tracey Emin, who was among the YBAs reminiscing about the creative impulses of their salad days in Imagine: Art Is Child's Play.

Apparently a pre-teen Emin made miniature scenes from old shoeboxes, building bars out of cotton reels with drinkers clipped from the pages of magazines. Wait a second, I did that! And so did a million others, I expect, but none of us is likely to be hailed an artistic genius (or even decried as a fake). And therein lies the fuzzy logic of the programme, which presenter Alan Yentob promised would explore the link between children's play and adult art.

Play during childhood, psychoanalyst Adam Phillips reminds us, is a serious business. It's how we negotiate our early encounters with the world, testing the boundaries and finding the limits – a practice all the artists interviewed agreed was not unlike their creative process. That's a virtue if you are Picasso and spent "four years learning to paint like Raphael and a lifetime trying to draw like a child", or a flaw if you are standing in Tate Modern opining that your four-year-old could do that.

So, the interesting question here was why, when the rest of us have put away childish things, artists are able – compelled, even – to continue to explore in this manner? Yentob's trips down memory lane with Emin, Grayson Perry and Gavin Turk et al were entertaining and I must admit that my play-post offices were mundane in comparison with Perry's complex, combative relationship with his childhood teddy Alan Measles. But the how and why of artists' capacity to maintain a part of their brain free from received inhibitions and conclusions remained mysterious (though Emin suggested that a couple of bottles of wine before a studio session might be key).

It's unfortunate that, as the face of the arts on the Beeb, Yentob manages to combine the flaws at both ends of the genre's spectrum, being off-puttingly highbrow without serious depth. Here he achieved self-parody to such an extent that I began to wonder if they just filmed him nodding sagely and chuckling conspiratorially and then spliced it together with footage of the artists chatting away.

Childhood memories also provided a way in to A Century of Fatherhood, the first of a three documentaries tracing the role of fathers over the past century.

The thesis – that dads in the olden days were either cold, distant tyrants or boozy wife-beaters – was laid on a bit thick and Charles Dickens was rather unfairly held up as chief literary perpetuator of the stereotype.

Dickens's work is, if anything, ambiguous on the subject of father figures and the programme could have benefited from a little more of that tension. Nobody can seriously believe that every Edwardian father was a frigid automaton, but nor are we going to buy that they were all lovely cuddly daddies.

Still, the sugary voice-over couldn't spoil some brilliant first-hand testimonies from men and women who grew up in the first decades of the 20th century and spoke with still-raw emotion about fathers lost 60 years ago or more.

Touching on the social upheavals of war and a changing economic and industrial landscape, the programme left you with a strong impression of the very particular violence with which male roles have been buffeted over the course of the past 100 years. Above all else, however, it was a warm, and occasionally very painful, portrait of familial love.

Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam